by Hazel Lewry
Totalitarian is really is the only word to describe UK-PLC in the present era. It may also have been more than appropriate in years past. The recent riots in England highlight the issues.
Worldwide the media asks why. From Antigua to Andorra, China to Chile, they ask why a localized event spread like a plague across a nation.
Sadly Scotland is lumped in as part of that nation- for now. The BBC and mainstream media simply reported it as all as UK and centered on London. Cameron did not try to spare the Scots either. They did so until corrected on day 3. By then the damage was done.
In the end it’s all about respect, Mr. Cameron.
Al-Jazeera in particular had the following quotes and analysis, largely in agreement with questions being asked in other nations of this anachronism, this (dis)United Kingdom.
“In the scramble to comprehend the riots, every single [UK] commentator has opened with a ritual condemnation of the violence, as if it were in any doubt that arson, muggings and lootings are ugly occurrences.
“That much should be obvious to anyone who is watching Croydon burn down on the BBC right now.
“David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, called the disorder ‘mindless, mindless’.
“Nick Clegg denounced it as ‘needless, opportunistic theft and violence’.
“Speaking from his Tuscan holiday villa, Prime Minister David Cameron – who has finally decided to return home to take charge – declared simply that the social unrest searing through the poorest boroughs in the country was ‘utterly unacceptable’.
“The violence on the streets is being dismissed as ‘pure criminality’, as the work of a ‘violent minority’, as ‘opportunism’.
“This is madly insufficient. It is no way to talk about viral civil unrest. Angry young people with nothing to do and little to lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it.”
The Seattle Times had the following remarks: “We should not be shocked nor surprised at the current ongoing rampage of London riots.
“However, we continue to look away from the obvious root cause that has assaulted our young men and women and taken away their future”.
The Philipino newspaper Bulatlat has an interesting perspective of the underlying root causes, an analysis sadly missing from much of the UK-MSM. The link is worth a read.
Contrast the opinions above of those looking in from outside, those possibly most able to see the situation clearly, for they are not vested interests and have nothing to save, hide or divert attention from.
The BBC and Sky followed the UK government line to a T.
And that government line directly from the UK premier was fundamentally that David Cameron did not promise to operate within the tenets of a democracy; he voiced instead only the noises of absolute power, of dictatorship.
Yes, there must be order, but there also must be engagement, dialogue and analysis for a nation to be described as a democracy. Simply voting twice a decade and putting up with the results is not democracy. It’s disenfranchisement. It is a prescription for riot.
As the path to order is being forced the route to engagement must be forged.
There was no reference to examining fundamental causes from Cameron or the mainstream UK media, to rectifying social injustice and shining a light at the roots of these repeated disturbances. What we got was:
- ‘Water cannon can be available within 24 hours’
- ‘Some parts of society are not just broken, but frankly sick’ but no suggestions on how to find a cure.
- ‘Phony concerns about human rights’ will not stop hunt for criminals’ although human rights are never phony.
- ‘We needed a fight-back and a fight-back is under way’ which is the voice of a society which sees itself at war.
- ‘Complete lack of responsibility in parts of society’ but ignoring examples set in the halls of power.
- Blaming lack of ‘proper upbringing and morals’ while MPs are jailed and bankers pocket millions.
Until the government and authority act in such a way as to earn and command respect, not simply fear, and that in time filters through English society, these periodical riots will continue. The rioters have more tools and better communication than in the past. Yet to deny them the tools and communication is to deny society and to deny democracy.
In the final analysis it’s fundamentally about respect. Respect for authority, respect for others, respect for property. Respect is both taught and earned. When both facets, the teaching and the earning, the giving and receiving are substantially absent the potential for riot exists. Where respect exists, riots don’t. In Scots society I would put forward there is a greater fundamental value on respect.
It should also have been about respecting the constituent nations – as Alex Salmond put it, “Society is different in Scotland.” There is a greater level of respect in Scotland, isolated irresponsibilities are contained. We even saw anti-riot chants at the Scotland – Denmark game.
David Cameron failed to respect the Nations of the Union, he could easily have corrected the tone of the situation and clarified that Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland were trouble free – it was in his power to prevent instances like this tweet:
“Visiting places in UK? Really? Only places in England there, my hotel [Scottish borders] has lost 56 Japanese visitors thanx to UK reports”. If they were staying a week at £100/night that small business just lost an amount nudging £40,000.
A £40,000 loss could terminate many small businesses. Business is too hard to find. Respect, Mr Cameron.
Gray, Mundell and others of Unionist persuasion did not rally to protecting their constituents from the consequences of this reporting, instead they took a thoroughly sickening stance by trying to score political points from those attempting to protect the livelihood of fellow Scots.
Westminster, and its northern poodles, by their own actions have lost respect.
Internally and externally the UK government now commands little but ridicule and laughter after decades of scandal, fraud and corruption. Even the Libyans, Syrians, Iranians and Chinese are given opportunity for table turning and completely reversing the vitriol.
Why then should Westminster expect anything more of those it purports to govern.
David Cameron then compounded the issues in later remarks when he stated that rioting and looting were a “deep moral failure”, and laid most of the responsibility firmly into the laps of parents whose children participated.
“Parents and children alike must be made to take greater responsibility for their actions”, Mr Cameron said.
“This is a time for the country to pull together,” he said, continuing, “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” But what about Parliament and the City Mr Cameron? He is proposing double standards.
Mr. Cameron – had you listened to the live interviews you might realise many of these “louts” had the same thing to say. “If the banks and politicians can do what they want – why not us?” It does not justify their actions but it is telling that there’s another house or two that needs putting in order.
In many ways the parents must be held accountable, but David Cameron should acknowledge and realize that Westminster is the godfather of these English riots, and that it was arguably the first to break the social contract.
Further rejecting claims that poverty fuelled the disturbances, Mr Cameron said the root causes of this week’s violence were cultural, not economic. “This is not about poverty, this is about culture.” Mr Cameron, poverty breeds a sub-culture, and you yourself acknowledged the riots originated in the most disadvantaged areas.
He also said that looting must be seen as nothing less than ordinary crime. “The young people stealing flat screen televisions and burning shops, that was not about politics or protest, it was about theft,” he said.
It is the disassociation of the root cause of events and the government stance above more than any other which has the likelihood of inciting the progress of riot. Scots have not yet been subject to the full savagery of Westminster austerity, so some tinder was removed here. Unlike many in England we also appear to have an antipathy towards rioting.
Expecting the riots to move from England to Scotland with the inherent differences in national outlook and government would be like anticipating riots in Sweden to spill into Norway – it’s the same land mass after all. Some aspects of society might make the attempt, but they would be quickly quashed.
When the Prime Minister first spoke on the riots, his speech reportedly had to be delayed to permit the announcement of yet more gloom by the Bank of England so that the economic situation within the UK could be better understood. The timing of these events is so ironic even a talented scriptwriter for a sitcom might have had a hard time dreaming it up.
As it continued Cameron’s speech included an ironic section: “There is a complete lack of responsibility in some parts of our society. People are allowed to feel the world owes them something and that their actions don’t have consequences.” Mr Cameron is at least fully correct here, the issue is perhaps the focus of his gaze. The first stop should be corruption in government, corruption in the City, the ‘sovereignty’ of Parliament to the disenfranchisement of the people – these are areas where unrest will be created.
“We needed a fightback and a fightback is under way. We have seen the worst of Britain but also the best of Britain with millions of people who have signed up on Facebook to support the police and the people who volunteered for clean ups.” Pledge that fight-back to include the halls of power and privilege Mr Cameron, perhaps then after your words are proven by your actions, or your successors, the people will begin to have respect for country and government.
Then you will have a chance to renew a social contract that has been so severely damaged within England between a substantial portion of the governed, and the governors.
The only significant question to still be answered, which will come first – full respect or outright rebellion.